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FourFourTwo's USWNT Top 50: No. 5 – Alex Morgan

Just nudging out her longtime competitor for minutes at forward, Alex Morgan checks in at No. 5 on our countdown of the Top 50 USWNT-eligible players

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First there was Mia. Then, there was Abby. And then there was Alex.

That’s the narrative which with Alex Morgan dealt with in her early days with the U.S. women’s national team. That pressure exploded in 2012, when Morgan became a regular starter, scored one of the most dramatic winning goals in U.S. history, and joined Mia Hamm as the only player to notch 20-plus goals and 20-plus assists (28 and 21, respectively). She was a finalist for FIFA World Player of the Year. The prophecies were proving true faster than we could write them down.

And they still have plenty of merit. Morgan, at 27 years old, is already eighth on the all-time U.S. scoring chart with 73 career international goals. But the past few years have been more circuitous for the world’s most recognizable women’s soccer player. Knee and ankle injuries limited her time and production levels for club and country. She captained the NWSL expansion team Orlando Pride in 2016, joining the club as its foundational first player. It gave her a fresh start in the league, one she said she needed, and it thrust her into a leadership role she is increasingly being asked to take on with the United States, Abby Wambach having retired in December 2015.

What followed in 2016 was not what Morgan nor the Pride would have hoped for: four goals in 15 games for Morgan, and a ninth-place finish for the Pride. A good showing in the SheBelieves Cup and at CONCACAF qualifying meant that Morgan finished the year with 17 goals for the U.S. in 2016, one fewer than she scored internationally over the three prior years combined.

Everything that everyone has seen in Morgan is still there, and it is there at an elite level. She was finally healthy enough in 2016 to remind us of that. Morgan might be the best forward in the world at getting behind defenses and finishing from said positions. Her speed and off-the-ball-movement are superior and she has an underrated quick-trigger shot which can catch goalkeepers by surprise.

But she needs to round out her game – to be more technical, less reliant upon her athleticism and more dynamic in her 1-v-1 approach. All of this she recognizes, and it is why she signed with Lyon. Sure, she’ll be paid well, but she’ll also get a necessary experience of a different style of play outside of her comfort zone. If Morgan wants to be the world’s best – and she still can be – that is essential.

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